This might be the only review I will ever do for a Virtual Boy-game. Why? Well, first of to acquire this system is not cheap or really recommended thanks to its limited amount of games and with the 3DS, you have a much better option. Second, most of the games for this system, while some are interesting, are mediocre. Third, I had to borrow this system after traveling for 12 hours. The headache after playing this did not help much either. I think it was a novel concept, but I’d rather be dead than red. Except for Wario Land and maybe three other games.
2.5D, but not really an upgrade
The story is barely even explained in this installment, so let’s just say Wario is greedy and sees his opportunity to get richer. To do this, he will travel through 14 stages, 4 of them being boss-fights, and collect as many treasures and coins as he can get. Wario controls very similarly to last time, with jumping, crawling and charging being present. He can no longer high-jump, but his jump is pretty impressive as it is. The charge attack feels off, since it will only work if you are already moving. If you stand still, he will instead use his shoulder as a shield until you move. It is useless and leads to more irritation than anything else, since it made it harder to charge-jump. The run-button helps this, however, since it will keep you on the go, but this felt still unnecessary. He can also stun and throw enemies as before, but I never used this feature.
Wario can again grab power-ups that come in the form of hats, with all three from previous games returning. His Viking-hat can ground pound, make our hero’s attacks stronger, and destroy certain blocks. He can no longer cling to ceilings, but it is not a huge loss. His dragon-hat also returns, being able to shoot fire over and under water, but loses the ability to charge. This is once again not a huge loss, as the trade-off is worth it. The eagle power-up also returns, making Wario jump higher, float, charge-attack in the air, and run a bit faster. The new power-up is the ability to combine the eagle and dragon hats for the most powerful effect in the game. I won’t spoil what it does since it is difficult to get, but it is worth picking up both hats as soon as you can. If Wario is hit, he will be reduced to small Wario, which can only jump, run, and die if he is in contact with dangerous obstacles or an enemy.
Wario is very fun to control due to his power-ups and abilities, but the levels aren’t always as creative. They do make use of his abilities and even his power-ups, but they feel very restrictive as they often resorted to blocks that need to be destroyed, and the needed power is never too far away. Some levels do get creative, such as a water level with obstacles in the background that can leap at you, or platforms that will throw you back and forth between layers, but others stages can be as simple as running through them. However, what makes this a bit better, is a hidden key you will have to collect throughout the stages, except for the bossfights. These aren’t too hard to find, however, making me wonder if they were at times needed. There are some cleverly hidden doors and breakable walls that aren’t too cryptic, which makes it a shame that they could not go further with the concept of exploration.
Hearts and coins return, with similar uses as before. Hearts can be collected for an extra life if you get one hundred of them, and coins are used for betting in mini-games and for getting the better ending. However, these mini-games are very similar to the previous entry with some alterations, making them rather forgettable. The one that can grant you more coins is a guessing game, where you have a small chance of getting more coins, and the one to acquire more hearts has Wario jumping back and forth between layers to get floating hearts. Speaking of which, the concept of 3D is not very well used and is more of a visual gag than anything else. This is a shame, because there are some good uses of the 3D-concept, such as the aforementioned platforms that will fling Wario between layers, but that’s about it. More often than not, this is only used for small pads that can make you jump back and forth between layers, making them have the same use as a door.
The bossfights are pretty enjoyable. They all start of with a minor boss-fight that will have you kill a small box that attacks you and then the real fight begins. These use the 3D-aspect better since they will launch an attack at you from the distance. However, the difficulty is very uneven and you can’t even pause during these segments, making them a bit annoying. All of the fights require you to jump on their heads, but their attacks and patterns differ, making them more memorable, even if there are only a few of them. The game is also very short and can easily be beaten in one and a half hour, unless you decide to take a break. There are save-points thankfully, but only after a level is done. To give an example of how short the game is, levels don’t even have checkpoints.
While there are some fun and creative levels, it can also be a pretty straight forward adventure at times. Due to its focus on vertical platforming, the eagle can also break the game a bit. It is simplistic at times, with some well-designed exploration put in. However, it does not go any further than being okay and what is innovating is also held down by its negatives. The concept of exploration could have gone further and I wish for a bit more to the game in general. At least, it can be fun for a short while.
Gameplay Score: 6/10
Impressive, despite the headache
Being the first 32-bit system by Nintendo, it showcases some impressive details in its visuals. Everything is well-designed, giving enemies more animations to them, levels literally popping out, and Wario looking disgusting, yet lovely at the same time. The 3D is also very impressive and well used to make the worlds more visually intriguing. Each area is different, with enemies complementing them well, and all are creative and unique. The same can’t be said for the soundtrack, however. It once again consists mostly of one track that is remixed throughout the game, and while it fits, it gets tiresome and takes away the atmosphere. There are some original tracks throughout, but it could certainly have used more to create a good soundtrack.
Presentation Score: 8/10
Wait, shouldn’t treasures be hidden?
Throughout the 10 stages, not counting the boss-levels, there is one secret treasure in each. These must be collected to get the best ending, as well as a hidden expert mode. Having multiple endings is a good idea similar to last entry, however since you are looking for the key in each stage, these are quite easy to find and can even be found by accident. This makes it a bit hard to even call this an extra, since it can be easily acquired even if you are not going for the best ending. However, they are optional, so they will be counted. The expert mode is a nice addition, but due to the game itself not being great, it is hard to go back one more time for tougher levels.
Extra Score: 4/10
Virtual Boy Wario Land can be a fun time, but has its share of downfalls that makes it a game that is hard to generally recommend. It almost feels odd to review this as if you even have the console, you probably have this installment already. If you are checking out the big e or it gets a rerelease, it is not bad entry and a novel game. But definitely not a system-seller and maybe that’s for the best.